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Entries in Bronson Arroyo (3)

Wednesday
Aug072013

How do pitchers do on the first batter of the game?

We often hear about getting to a pitcher early, but I want to look at the earliest of the early and see how pitchers have fared on the very first batter they faced in the 1st inning.

Up first

  • Qualified starters are hit at a .253 pace by the leadoff batter in the 1st inning, batters have a .311 OBP, slug .393, for a .704 OPS.
  • Overall, qualified starters are hit at a .249 pace by all the batters they face, batters have a .307 OBP, slug .390, for a .697 OPS.

No surprises there. We expect the leadoff batter to do better than at least three and maybe four members of a representative lineup, so we expect them to be better in all statistical categories, but understandably, not by an enormous amount.

Who does well?

You won't find anyone better this season than Bronson Arroyo, who has faced 22 leadoff batters and retired them all, striking out five, getting eight grounders and nine outs in the air. Just to let you know, Arroyo has a 2.84 ERA in 1st inning and a .220 BAA.

Next up, is Jordan Zimmermann. Leadoff batters are 1-for-22 against Jordan with four whiffs for an .045 BAA. The one hit occurred in his last outing on August 2 when he allowed a leadoff double to Rickie Weeks and Zimm stranded him. Overall in his 1st innings, Zimmermann has a 1.64 ERA and a .163 BAA.

The third of four starters who have allowed one hit or less to the leadoff batter is Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie has faced 23 leadoff batters, walked four and allowed just one hit, a Matt Carpenter double on May 30. The Cards got to  Guthrie for two runs that night in the 1st, but Guthrie held them scoreless over the next five innings.

The final first batter star pitcher is the Mets phee-nom Matt Harvey. Harvey has allowed one hit and one walk to the 22 batters he's faced (.048), while striking out seven. The one hit was a Juan Pierre bunt single on June 2. 

First batter of the game strikeout leaders
  PA K
John Lackey (BOS) 20 9
Wade Miley (ARI) 23 7
Ryan Dempster (BOS) 22 7
Matt Harvey (NYM) 22 7
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 7
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 7
Edwin Jackson (CHC) 22 7
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 24 7
A. J. Griffin (OAK) 23 7
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) 22 6

And the not so good...

I find this list fascinating because there is such a mix of successful and not so successful pitchers.

1st inning Leadoff Batter Struggles
  PA H AVG BB
James Shields (KC) 24 10 .455 2
Eric Stults (SD) 23 10 .455 1
Andy Pettitte (NYY) 20 10 .526 1
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 .529 4
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 9 .409 1
Lance Lynn (STL) 23 9 .391 0
Kyle Lohse (MIL) 23 9 .409 1
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 9 .375 0
Bud Norris (BAL) 24 9 .391 0
Anibal Sanchez (DET) 19 9 .563 3

My particular annoyance

I hate it when pitchers walk the first batter of the game. It irks me. Consequently, these guys annoy me.

Leaders in Leadoff Walks (Ugh!)
  PA H BB AVG OBP
Tim Lincecum (SF) 22 6 5 .353 .500
Dillon Gee (NYM) 22 3 5 .176 .364
Stephen Strasburg (WSH) 23 2 4 .111 .304
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 4 .529 .619
Ricky Nolasco (LAD) 23 5 4 .263 .391
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) 23 1 4 .053 .217
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 4 .368 .478

Finally, here are the seven starters who have allowed two homers to first batters they faced

1st inning leadoff gopher pitchers
  PA H HR AVG SLUG
Yu Darvish (TEX) 22 3 2 .158 .474
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) 23 4 2 .200 .600
Kevin Correia (MIN) 22 7 2 .368 .684
John Lackey (BOS) 20 5 2 .250 .550
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 2 .368 .737
Gio Gonzalez (WSH) 23 7 2 .318 .682
CC Sabathia (NYY) 23 5 2 .238 .571

The best first inning leadoff batters

Here's a bonus for you:

Leadoff batters in the 1st inning
  PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS H HR BB K
Shin-Soo Choo (CIN) 98 .353 .439 .671 1.109 30 5 7 15
Nate McLouth (BAL) 85 .342 .388 .468 .857 27 1 5 7
Eric Young Jr. (NYM) 71 .328 .423 .410 .832 20 0 9 6
Starling Marte (PIT) 102 .319 .373 .500 .873 30 1 5 27
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 106 .313 .358 .495 .853 31 2 5 14
Desmond Jennings (TB) 76 .290 .355 .435 .790 20 2 7 16
Matt Carpenter (STL) 87 .288 .345 .413 .757 23 1 7 10
Michael Bourn (CLE) 81 .286 .321 .416 .737 22 2 4 16
Brett Gardner (NYY) 101 .272 .337 .380 .717 25 0 8 19
Austin Jackson (DET) 79 .271 .354 .343 .697 19 0 9 12
Norichika Aoki (MIL) 91 .263 .352 .313 .664 21 0 10 6
Coco Crisp (OAK) 89 .250 .326 .413 .738 20 3 9 10
Alejandro De Aza (CWS) 105 .213 .295 .372 .668 20 4 11 19
Denard Span (WSH) 92 .200 .261 .271 .531 17 0 7 19
Alex Gordon (KC) 83 .200 .277 .267 .544 15 1 6 17

 

After all is said and done, the best part of the leadoff experience is that the game has started.

Wednesday
Sep212011

Arroyo and the Long Ball

In a few hours, Bronson Arroyo takes the mound in Cincinnati looking to avoid edging closer to a record set by Bert Blyleven. Usually, it would be an honor to be mentioned alongside the Hall of Fame Dutchman, but not when it comes to the all-time single season record for home runs surrendered. Arroyo has served up 44 dingers in 2011, putting him six shy of Blyleven's record set in 1986.

Arroyo has always had issues with the long ball (his career HR/9 mark is 1.23), but nothing like what he has experienced this year. Heading into today's start, his 2.18 homers per nine innings is the second-highest mark ever among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, according to Baseball Reference. Only the late Jose Lima (2.20 per nine in 2000) got taken deep more often. Blyleven tossed a league-leading 271.2 innings during his record-setting '86 season, so his HR/9 total was "only" 1.7

Some will point to Arroyo's career-high 16.3 home run per fly ball rate as a sign that he has endured some poor luck this season. That HR/FB total is way above his career high of 10.6 percent, and his average opponent fly ball distance of 309 feet is actually below the 314 average he posted the previous two seasons. However, it's also true that Arroyo is giving lots up homers on pitches that are right down the middle of the plate:

Location frequency of Arroyo's HRs, 2011

Twenty-six of Arroyo's home runs have come on pitches located down the horizontal middle of the plate. He's missing down the middle more often overall this year, and he's getting burned more often:

2009: 21.8% of pitches thrown down the middle, 15.2 HR/FB%

2010: 22.1% down the middle, 17.6 HR/FB%

2011: 24.1% down the middle, 23.6 HR/FB%

When you're a soft-tosser like Arroyo, you can't afford to put the ball on a tee for the hitter. Opponents are slugging a MLB-high .738 on pitches that Arroyo throws down the middle, 265 points higher than the league average. If Bronson wants to stop singing the home run blues, he's gotta hit his spots more often.

Sunday
Mar062011

Arroyo's Hook

Bronson Arroyo has thrown over 200 innings in every season since 2005.  Last season was the first in that stretch where he yielded less than 200 hits.  Most of his success comes against right-handed batters, and he has done well pitching them away.

Bronson Arroyo vs. RHB - Outside Zone

Arroyo was very efficient with his pitches to the outside corner.  The above graphic shows all his pitches that would qualify as hitting the outside part of the zone in 2010.  Last year, 43.6% of those pitches were curveballs, the highest of any pitcher throwing outside to righties.  Batters struck out 30.8% of the time and produced an overall wOBA of .130 against curves in that zone (298 pitches, 91 PA).  In his career, Arroyo has a 31.2% K-rate on curves to RHB in that zone with a wOBA of .171 (890 pitches, 261 PA).

With two strikes versus RHB last season, Arroyo went to his curveball 38% of the time, most of any pitch in his arsenal.  Batters swung 63.4% of the time and struck out 43.2%.  When they did make contact, the result was a miniscule .062 batting average and .148 slugging percentage.  At this point in his career, opposing batters are probably well aware of what's coming - but Arroyo continues to make that pitch work.